Yuma native, Curley Culp, has made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Culp revolutionized the nose tackle position in the NFL, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame took him in officially as one of seven newly inducted players.
At 6’1″ and 265 lbs, Culp was considered a bit too short for a defensive lineman and a bit too slow to play defensive linebacker. He moved from Denver to Kansas City in search of a team that could properly utilize his unique talents. It was not until Chiefs coach, Hank Stramm, in an attempt to nullify the Minnesota Vikings quick outside rushing attack, decided to line Culp directly nose-to-nose with Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff. The strategy proved to be brilliant, as the smaller Tingelhoff could not block Culp one-on-one and had to be helped by the other linemen. This freed other Chiefs defenders to get into the Vikings offensive backfield and shut down their running game. The effectiveness of the Chiefs’ defensive game plan helped continue the growing popularity of the 3-4 scheme in the 1970s from the college to pro ranks. Curley Culp defined the position of Nose Tackle in the NFL.
“Curley Culp was a tremendous athlete,” Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson said. “He had such strength and quickness. I remember (center) Jack Rudnay used to say that every center in the league should have to go against Curley in order to know what it’s like to go against the very best.”
Culp helped anchor the Kansas City defensive line during one of the greatest eras of Chiefs football. Heralded as one of the quickest defensive linemen in the league, Culp spent seven seasons in Kansas City (1968–1974). He was a starting defensive tackle on the Chiefs Super Bowl IV team and appeared in 82 games with Kansas City. A member of the Chiefs 25-Year All-Time Team, Culp played in the 1969 AFL All-Star Game and the 1971 Pro Bowl Team. He was twice honored as the AP Defensive Player of the Week and claimed the Chiefs unofficial sack crown in 1973 with nine QB takedowns. Culp also registered five fumble recoveries in his Kansas City career.
The Oilers acquired Culp midway through the 1974 season for a less than happy DT= John Matuszak. Culp had signed to play in the rival WFL for 1975, so the Chiefs thought they were unloading a problem of their own. Culp outlived the new league and then some. It turned out to be one of the best trades in Oiler history. When Culp got to Houston, Bum Phillips was the defensive coordinator for Head Coach Sid Gillman. Bum had convinced Sid to try a 3-4 defense, employing three down linemen and four linebackers, abandoning the standard 4-3 defense of the time. Culp was tremendously strong, so strong he often required two and three players t block him, opening lanes for other Houston defensive linemen. Houston won seven of their remaining nine games after Curley came to Houston. As Phillips later said, “Curley made (the 3-4 defense) work. He made me look smart.”
Culp’s finest season came in 1975. He notched 11½ sacks, an unheard of total for a defensive tackle. But just as Earl Campbell, Curley Culp would feel the wear and tear of the NFL. The nose tackle position would become notorious for shortening careers. As linemen attacked Curley from every angle, injuries and age began to take their toll. Midway through the 1980 season, Culp was released and was claimed by Detroit, where he stayed an additional season, before closing out his 14-year NFL career.
SPORTING NEWS named Culp to the All-Century teams of both the Kansas City and Houston/Tennessee franchises. Or more to the point, as voiced by Hall-Of-Famer center, Jim Otto, of the Raiders, “Curley Culp was perhaps the strongest man I ever lined up against.”
“Playing the nose is a very grueling position to play because you have to be concerned about the center and also the guards, and occasionally you have to worry about the tight ends,” Culp said. “I remember one game, we were playing Pittsburgh, they even had the ‘wham’ where the tight end would come and block down on me. Teams did a lot of different things to control the apex of the defense, because if they could control the nose tackle, they had some room to move around inside.”
Culp said his favorite times with the Oilers were during the “Luv Ya Blue!” era (1978-80) when Houston played Pittsburgh for the 1978 and ’79 AFC Championships but came a game shy of the Super Bowl both seasons. He also remembered his only professional touchdown that occurred against the Chargers in 1975.
“I guess one game in particular when we were playing San Diego, I picked up a fumble and was going in the wrong direction, and Elvin said, ‘Hey, you’re going the wrong way,’ ” Culp recalled. “Luckily, I stumbled into the end zone.” Much like the path to the end zone on that play, Culp’s journey to the Hall of Fame was not the most direct route, but he will be the game’s first nose tackle to be enshrined .
McClain said there is not a player more deserving of that distinction.
Curley was presented to the Hall of Fame by his son, Chad, who Curley affectionately refered to as his bonus baby. Curley arrived and thanked coaches, family, and teammates. He also made a special note to thank Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. It was probably due to the efforts of Rick that Curley was granted entrance into the HOF.
” This occasion has long been in my dreams, and now is my reality. This acceptance into the Hall of Fame. This has been patiently awaited for. To all my invited guests, please stand and be recognized.” (a small crowd stands)
“Hank Stramm gave me the chance to join the Kansas City Chiefs, and gave me the chance. He promised me that if he had a chance to bring me to Kansas City, he would. He was a man of his word. Belief in the team, Kansas City will always remember his style. Houston Oilers had Bum Phillips. He gave me the chance to Play nose tackle and the 3-4 defense.”
“I’ve learned how pain can build character and endurance. And that life is like a big football game, where any play can make a difference. It’s been an honor to wear the uniform of the Kansas City Chiefs, and an honor to wear the uniform of the Houston Oilers. I am now honored and humbled to wear hall of fame Gooooold!”
Written by: @milroyigglesfan
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